You know it is a good homily when your 22-year-old daughter leans over and comments on it in the middle of Mass. We made a point of stopping to talk to our new curate, Fr Brendan, afterwards.
What had struck Deirbhile was that Fr Brendan was connecting the readings to issues here and now. It was the day that Pope Paul VI and Oscar Romero were canonised and Brendan had drawn our attention to the commitment of both men to social justice.
In fact, I would suggest to anyone that it is worthwhile googling quotes from Populorum Progressio, Paul VI’s encyclical on the Development of Peoples. Written in 1967 it is a challenging word of truth that we need to hear today and it fits seamlessly with the writings of Pope Francis on inequality, economic systems, how we treat the environment and how we respect the humanity of every person. Equally I would suggest that we should read and reflect on the homily delivered by Oscar Romero [pictured] shortly before he was shot and killed by government forces during his celebration of the Eucharist.
Paul VI and Oscar Romero spoke up for justice. Oscar Romero forfeited his life because he would not remain silent about the killing and torture being inflicted on the people of El Salvador. Fr Brendan urged us to be people who speak up for justice and truth. He noted the scandal of €12 million being made available in the budget for abortion services. He spoke about Emma Mhic Mhathúna and her courage to speak out about her own diagnosis of terminal cancer following a misread cervical smear.
The first reading that Sunday was about the priceless riches of wisdom – the Holy Spirit. The second reading reminded us that “the word of God is something alive and active” (Heb 4:12). The Gospel introduced us to the young man who is so wrapped up in his own wealth and security that he found himself unable to follow Jesus. The homily put all of this in the context of today and the challenges that we face if we are to follow Jesus.
This is the call to holiness and I have been thinking about it a lot recently because I have been preparing and delivering two evenings in the Thornhill Centre in Derry on ‘Pope Francis and the call to holiness in today’s world’. Pope Francis makes it absolutely clear that there is no point talking about holiness unless it is lived out in love for our sisters and brothers. He talks about the holiness we encounter (and we won’t notice it unless we pay attention) in our family, our neighbours and the community around us.
You and I are unlikely to face the challenges that confronted Oscar Romero. We are unlikely to be asked to lay down our lives for our faith. Pope Francis makes it clear that the path of holiness is not about imitating what someone else has done but discovering what God is asking us to do.
As he says: “The important thing is that each believer discern his or her own path, that they bring out the very best of themselves, the most personal gifts that God has placed in their hearts rather than hopelessly trying to imitate something not meant for them. We are all called to be witnesses, but there are many actual ways of bearing witness.” Gaudate Exsultate 11
Inspired by Oscar Romero, Paul VI and many others we are invited to move out of our comfort zone and allow faith to shape and direct our lives. With the Synod on Young People happening in Rome I am very aware that it is this type of holiness – incarnate, living, authentic, Spirit inspired – that makes sense to our young people, as Deirbhile made quite clear.